Welcome back Jackson
WR looks like he never left
PHILADELPHIA — Sunday provided Eagles fans with a vivid reminder of DeSean Jackson’s impact on the football field.
Reacquired as a free agent in the offseason after spending five years with Washington and the Buccaneers, Jackson scored on two deep balls from Carson Wentz and had a monster game in a 32-27 victory over Washington at the Linc.
Jackson, who made it no secret he never wanted to leave Philadelphia when Chip Kelly released him in 2013 after his best season in the NFL, finished with eight catches on 10 targets for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
“Man, I’m very excited,” Jackson said. “Coming back to Philly and all the emotions I had going into this game, I couldn’t have predicted for it to be any other way.”
Jackson was a little too excited. He said his emotions Saturday were “racing,” and he “couldn’t stay calm.” Although he said he was “calm and collected” before the game, something was still off.
Until he was flagged in the first quarter for smacking Redskins corner Quinton Dunbar.
“I got that out of the way, and I was good,” Jackson said.
He was better than that.
With the flat Eagles trailing 10point underdog Washington 17-0 in the second quarter, Jackson beat cornerback Josh Norman for a 51-yard score, catching the pass at the goal line. The play was designed for Alshon Jeffery, but Wentz realized Norman might not have safety help and told Jackson to be ready.
The Eagles trailed 20-7 at halftime, and Jackson had a message.
“It was just going to take one play,” Jackson said.
Jeffery scored to get the Eagles within six, and then Jackson made another big play. He secured Wentz’s throw at the 7-yard line with safety Montae Nicholson barely in the area code and waltzed into the end zone for a 53-yard TD to give the Eagles their first lead at 21-20. He celebrated by doing a pair of forward rolls.
“We haven’t had a guy like that since he left,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “To know that each and every time, as an offense, the next play could be a touchdown is huge.”
The Eagles had only two 50-yard pass plays for touchdowns during the entire 2018 season — Jordan Matthews’ 56-yard score from Carson Wentz in Week 2 and Nelson Agholor’s 83-yarder from Nick Foles in Week 16. Jackson had three in what was a down year for him last season in Tampa.
Jackson became the league’s first player with multiple 50-yard touchdown receptions in a game since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2016. Only three other Eagles have accomplished the feat, the last being Ben Hawkins in 1967.
Though he is second on the NFL’s all-time list with 31 50-yard scoring catches (trailing only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, 36), this was the first time Jackson did it twice in a game during his 12-year career.
“We were able to get him in some mismatches,” Wentz said. “We hit those two home runs, which was pretty sweet.”
Both TDs came on third-and-10 plays with Jackson as the middle receiver in three-wide formations to the right.
“There’s no better feeling for an offensive lineman than going like two plays in a drive and see D-Jax running wide open,” right guard Brandon Brooks said. “If you can tell from my voice, I’m excited to have him back. Having DeSean back is [really] great.”
Ertz realized the call that was coming on the second Wentz-to-Jackson score and was tempted to get a good look at it developing.
“I was like, ‘Man, should I even run my route over here or should I just watch?’ ” Ertz said. “I ran my route, but I was kind of just peeking waiting for the ball to go up in the air, and I knew what the end result was going to be.”
Washington made some adjustments to prevent another deep ball, but that created space underneath for Jackson and the rest of the Eagles’ receivers. The Eagles have the skillposition players to make teams pay for double-covering Jackson, and he has the speed and tracking ability to produce back-breaking plays if they don’t. Opponents have to make their choice.
Jackson added a pair of catches for first downs on the Birds’ ensuing drive. The first was for 19 yards, with the Washington secondary giving him a huge cushion because of what he did earlier. The second went for 9 yards.
“There were a lot of great things in the playbook for me this week,” Jackson said.
His teammates hope that continues to be the case.
“I mean, at least two guys are going to be back there [on him],” Brooks said. “If not, you saw what he did today.”
Washington coach Jay Gruden saw it clearly.
“DeSean is DeSean,” Gruden said. “We should have been in better position. You never blow a coverage when No. 10 is on the field on the other team. If you’re going to blow it, you’re going to err on the side of covering him.”
Washington gets another shot at Jackson and the Eagles on Dec. 15 at FedEx Field. Gruden and company must take a different approach if they plan on increasing their chances of winning.
DeSean Jackson and Carson Wentz celebrate Jackson’s third-quarter TD. Jackson has 31 career 50-plus-yard TDs, second-most in league history.